NSAC's Blog

Party time!

October 5, 2010

We are pleased to share this post by Bridget Holcomb from the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute based on a day-long visit to Wisconsin last week by USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White.

I’ve been to my share of birthday parties before, but this has to be a first.  A birthday party for a federal agency?  There better be cake.

Not only was there cake (donated — no tax dollars were used to buy me cake), but the 75th birthday party for the Natural Resources Conservation Service also had one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Cake and celebrity!  Now we have a party!

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. Credit: Bridget Holcomb.

Although USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan laughed off being on Time’s list beside President Obama and Lady Gaga, I was impressed that Time Magazine was smart enough to recognize this fierce fighter and coalition-builder holding down USDA’s number two seat.  But Merrigan (whose staff now jokingly refers to her as Lady Agag) focused on the wonderful work of NRCS.

“Everyone who drinks water counts on us; everyone who eats food counts on us,” she said.

NRCS Chief Dave White had similar humility, and after showing a variety of before/after photos for NRCS conservation projects simply said, “This is the kind of stuff that makes a difference.”

NRCS Chief Dave White. Credit: Bridget Holcomb.

For me, even though I had worked on conservation issues for years, and worked with and for NRCS for years, I had never stopped to imagine where we would be if NRCS had never existed.  Where would we be without all the NRCS field offices working to protect our land, water and air?  Where would we be without all of the conservation programs helping farmers protect natural resources?  How much more soil would have been lost?  How many more farmers would have lost their land?

I am now a huge advocate of federal agency birthday parties.  It gives us a chance to stop and ask, “What is the worth of this federal agency?  Is it more or less than its budget?”

With NRCS, there isn’t even a question to its worth.  It is priceless.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment

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